You’ve seen those ubiquitous ads on TV of a seemingly good-hearted store that promised elderly and disabled Americans a motorized scooter FOR FREE! Because, the ad assures its viewers, Medicare will pay for it!!!!
I’ve seen those ads too, and had wondered how the Scooter Store could be so 100% confident that *ANYONE* who wanted a scooter was assured one — FOR FREE!
To quote the eminently sensible Judge Judy: “If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true.”
When was the last time you’ve seen a Scooter Store commercial? At least many months, if not a year or two.
Here’s why . . . .
Founded in 1991 by Doug and Susanna Harrison, the privately-owned Scooter Store is headquartered in New Braunfels, Texas, and serve 48 states. It is the largest supplier of mobility vehicles in the United States.
In February 2013 the company Store filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and ceased all cash sales to the public, after a raid by more than 150 FBI agents and local cops for Medicare-Medicaid fraud of as much as $108 million.
During its heyday, the Scooter Store had employed more than 2,400 people and was New Braunfels’ largest private employer. On September 13, 2013, the company entered liquidation and terminated its remaining 370 employees. Effective October 26, the Scooter Store lost its federal contract with Medicare eliminating the ability to sell assets in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. So the company’s board of directors made the decision to essentially liquidate the business.
Medicare has accounted for about three-quarters of the Scooter Store’s business, a company representative told a U.S. Senate committee last year. But an independent auditor found The Scooter Store had received between $46.8 million and $87.7 million in Medicare overpayments.
The company is accused by the Justice Department of harassing doctors with constant phone calls and surgery visits in order to wear them down to prescribe scooters to patients who do not need them.
A damning exposé by CBS This Morning in January alleged that the company over-billed Medicare by $108 million between 2009-2012.
Former Scooter Store employee Brian Setzer told CBS that company’s main goal was to use pressure to get doctors to prescribe their vehicles. Setzer described the company’s policy was to “Bulldoze and get them to get the paperwork done.” He said his bosses would order him to annoy doctors into prescribing the scooters: “I’d get a call, ‘Well, can you go in to get him to do this? Could you get him to do this.’ I couldn’t feel right in my heart to do that.”
Here’s the extent of Scooter Store’s scam:
- The company had a specialized department devoted to getting the scooters for patients who had already been ruled ineligible by Medicare.
- About 80% of all claims for scooters were found to be medically unnecessary.
- 61% of claims that were approved should not have been, totaling $95 million.
- What Medicare paid the Scooter Store was FOUR TIMES the average amount spent by suppliers for standard power wheelchairs.
The federal governmenttaxpayers spent $723 million for the scooters in Medicare reimbursements for 2009 alone.
Tom Wilson of The CareGiver Partnerships: wants us to hold the owners of The Scooter Store responsible. He writes:
Doug and Susanna Harrison are the the ‘faces’ behind The Scooter Store. They founded The Scooter Store and were personally responsible for its operations, policies and procedures – until they jumped ship in 2012. […]
They spent years greasing the palms of politicians. Through The Scooter Store, they gave $86,273 to federal politicians and were a top source of funds for 19 members of Congress. Since 2007, they have given $473,000 to politicians.
They also spent nearly $4 million on lobbying since 2004 trying to kill laws to curb waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. […]
After being charged with fraud, the company said it would only repay $20 million of the $88 million defrauded from Medicare. They actually had the audacity to file a lawsuit against the government (really all of us as consumers) for not approving their claims.
Doug and Susanna must be held accountable. They continue to live the life of luxury. People must be held accountable for fraud, not a company which has no soul or conscience… and now, no assets. […]
Doug Harrison is quoted as saying he’s proud what he and the Scooter Store did. During March 2012, he jumped ship just before the company began to implode and the majority of its employees suddenly lost their livelihood and creditors lost their money. He also left the city of New Brunfels high and dry after they gave into pressure from him to relocate the company. They provided massive tax incentives to stay, which they are now unlikely to ever recoup.
People, Not Companies Must Be Held Accountable For Stealing From Medicare. ‘We the people’ are out a great deal of money. In my opinion,the Harrisons must be brought to trial and made an example of if we are to curb fraud of our health care system. Since no bankers were ever tried, this is sadly, unlikely.
H/t FOTM’s CSM
Dr. Eowyn is the Editor of Fellowship of the Minds.